Poole, Matthew

Poole, Matthew an eminent English Nonconformist minister, was born in York in 1624. He received his education and took his degree at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Having attached himself to the Presbyterians, he entered the ministry, and about the year 1648 became rector of St. Michael le Querne, in London. In 1657, when Richard Cromwell succeeded his father in the chancellorship at Oxford, Mr. Poole was incorporated master of arts in that university. He soon became famous and of influence among his brethren, especially after 1658, when he published A Model for the Maintaining of Students of Choice Abilities at the University, and principally in order to the Ministry, which was accompanied with a recommendation from the university, signed by several Cambridge professors and savans, among whom were Cudworth, Witchcot, Worthington, Dillingham, etc. In 1660, after the restoration of Charles II, he published a sermon upon Joh 4:23-24, preached before the mayor of London, against reestablishing the Liturgy of the Church of England; and refusing to comply with the Act of Uniformity, in 1662, he was ejected from his rectory. He published on this occasion Vox clamantis in Deserto, but submitted to the law with a commendable resignation, and retired to his studies at his paternal estate, resolving to employ his pen in the service of religion in general, regardless of the particular disputes among Protestants. He now devoted himself to a laborious and useful work entitled Synopsis Criticorum Biblicum, which was published in 1669 and the following years. The design was nothing less than to bring into one view whatever had been written by critics of all ages and nations on the books of Holy Scripture. The work when finally brought out was probably as good as any of the kind can be, and few will deny that it is a very valuable and useful abridgment; but synopses and abridgments are rather for the multitude than for scholars, who are rarely satisfied with the opinions of any author which are thus presented to them at second- hand, without the fullness of illustration which the author himself had given; yet being written in Latin, it is manifest that the compiler contemplated a work adapted to the necessities and tastes of Biblical scholars. Its chief use is as a convenient body of exegetical criticism for Biblical students who are placed in situations which cut them off from convenient access to large libraries, and for them it has been rendered to a great extent obsolete by the important results of recent research. But in its day it was a great work. In the midst of this employment he testified his zeal against popery in a number of works, the principal one of which is entitled The Nullity of the Romish Faith concerning the Church's Infallibility (1666, 8vo). When Oates's depositions concerning the Popish plot were printed in 1679, Poole found his name in the list of those that were to be cut off; and an incident befell him soon after which gave him the greatest apprehensions of his danger. Having passed an evening at the house of his friend, alderman Ashurst, he took one Mr. Chorley to bear him company home. When they came to the narrow passage which leads from Clerkenwell to St. John's Court, there were two men standing at the entrance; one of whom, as Poole came along, cried out to the other, "Here he is!" upon which the other replied, "Let him alone, for there is somebody with him." As soon as they had passed, Poole asked his friend if he heard what those men said; and upon his answering that he had, "Well," replied Poole, "I had been murdered tonight, if you had not been with me." It is said that, before this incident, he gave not the least credit to what was said in Oates's deposition; but he soon thought proper to retire to Holland, where he died, in October 1679, not without a suspicion of being poisoned, as Calamy relates. He published several small pieces, besides what has been mentioned; and he also wrote a volume of English Annotations upon the Holy Scriptures; but was prevented by death from going farther than the 58th chapter of Isaiah. That work was completed by others, and published (1688) in two vols. fol, Poole is spoken of as profound in learning strict in piety, and universal in his charity. He was more especially distinguished as a commentator. Mr. Cecil observes, "Commentators are excellent where there are but few difficulties; but they leave the harder knots still untied; but after all, if we must have commentators, as we certainly must, Poole is incomparable, and I had almost said, abundant of himself." Wood observes that "he left behind him the character of a very celebrated critic and casuist;" and Calamy tells us that "he was very facetious in conversation, very true to his friend, very strict in his piety, and universal in his charity." See Allibone, Dict. of Brit. and Amer. Auth. s.v.; Middleton, Evangel. Biogr. vol. 3; Géneralé Biogr. Dict. s.v.

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